Shonky landlord does a runner

BYRON Bay's so-called 'schoolies slum landlord' has skipped the country, failing for the second time to appear in court to answer charges of operating an illegal backpacker hostel.

It is alleged Shai Major charged naive schoolies and backpackers exorbitant amounts of money to sleep in squalid conditions at a dilapidated residential property he was renting at 139 Jonson St, Byron Bay.

Byron Shire Council alleges Mr Major, an Israeli national, was exploiting the holidaymakers by charging them up to $800 a week to live in the unhygienic and overcrowded conditions.

Council staff have taken the unusual step of also charging the owner of the property, Fletcher Jonson Pty Ltd, under the same offence, alleging the company was aware the property was being used as illegal holiday accommodation.

When police and council officers raided the property on December 2, 2011, they found 18 people, including eight schoolies and 10 backpackers, crammed into the property.

Some of the occupants had been sleeping in the backyard, while others slept on mattresses in a garage that council officers said was as an asbestos risk.

Mr Major is charged with 'development without consent' - an offence that holds a maximum penalty of $100,000.

When he was first due to appear in court, on December 8, Mr Major wrote to the magistrate saying he could not attend due to work commitments in Brisbane.

He was found shortly after at the Jonson St property.

Documents handed to the court yesterday revealed Mr Major left Australia for Israel later that day.

According to the passenger card handed to Customs at Brisbane Airport, his intention was to travel to Israel for two months.

After yesterday's non-appearance Magistrate Michael Dakin adjourned the matter until February 24, when Mr Major and the company he was renting the home from, Fletcher Jonson Pty Ltd, will again face the charges.